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Published On: Thu, Nov 20th, 2014

Let’s disband the military, let’s engage hunters

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Badeh and JonathanBy Ali M. Ali.

This sounds unkind. Disband a standing army? Who will then defend and protect us? Valid question. My answer. Hunters! The news that hunters armed with no more than den guns, bows, arrows and sheer guts have liberated Mubi, a town in the stranglehold of the notorious Boko Haram, engendered a civil war in my emotion. I didn’t know which emotion to succumb to? Laugh or weep?

A voice said ‘laugh’. No ‘weep’ another advised. Laugh? Weep? Such was the extent of the civil war in my love and hate.

After a titanic struggle, I capitulated to uncontrollable mirth. I imagined the scenario: a legion of raffia skirt clad, tiger skin wearing and amulets tying warriors leading a battalion of gun totting, demoralized, poorly equipped soldiers of the 4th largest Army on the continent of Africa to set free a beleaguered territory. This is mirth inspiring.

It is even more so if you considered the history of our military. This was an army that fought a civil war successfully. An army that made its mark as the best in peacekeeping operations on the continent and elsewhere. An army whose threatening presence alone chased away usurpers of political power and mutant dictators in Sierra Leone and Sao Tome with their tails in between their legs. The might of the Nigerian Military was never in doubt until Boko Haram sauntered in.

I am befuddled. How could an army with such a sterling reputation be reduced to a fleeing and ‘tactically manoeuvring’ platoon in a space of five years? And how could a ‘rag tag’ bunch of misguided youth transformed into a formidable fighting force now being tamed by hunters? What happened?

Slowly and steadily the once awe inspiring Nigeria military was gradually demystified by the ‘ragtag’ bunch of benighted ideologues called Boko Haram. Their repeated and successful foray into territories including military formations caused the circumspect to wonder if there was more than what meets the eye.

Late last year for instance, Boko Haram insurgents waltzed into Maiduguri, capital of Borno state, and wreaked maximum havoc. At the end of their hours of unchallenged fury, five military aircraft were ruined, they levelled 33 Artillery Brigade, and 79 Composite Group of the Air Force was torched. Bulumkutu Divisional Police Headquarters, devastated. Over 100 vehicles burnt.

This year alone, these insurrectionists have subdued several military barracks including the fearsome fortress ‘Giwa barracks’ in Maiduguri and freed their detained members. They took over police training installations in Gwoza. In Bama, they installed an “Amir’ and the latest Mubi, which thankfully, the hunters have recaptured.

Mubi houses Vimtim, the ancestral home of the chief of defence staff Alex Badeh. Unlike Ihejirika, Badeh is loquacious and has demonstrated a miserable ignorance in tackling the insurgency. He also lacks shame. I had thought after the fall of his hometown he would honourably quit before he is fired but nay, he sits tight secured in the knowledge that the Commander-in-chief is lacks the political will to do the needful.

Under former Army Chief Ihejirika, the counter insurgency efforts was more or less, a white elephant project with the top hierarchy of the military feeding fat. Under Badeh, the counter insurgency battle has been reduced to a comedy of errors. One moment there will be talks of ‘total war’, the next there will be talks of ‘cease fire’. It is in the market square now that truce with the insurgents is a well constructed scam which the President has fallen for twice.

Every year a huge chunk of the national budget was devoted to security and counter insurgency. In the 2012 federal budget, defence took the lion’s share. Yet our courageous soldiers in the battlefront who sacrificed lives and limbs, it came to the fore, were and are still poorly catered for. Ill equipped and poorly armed, they became mere sitting ducks for the more insidious enemy.

Before hunters led our ‘sissy’ army, anti -riot policemen derisively christened ‘kill and go’, it was reported by an on line news portal, had similarly led the charge, to a fruitless end, to free Mubi while our ‘tactically manoeuvring’ army kept the rear end.

When the story broke, I was hesitant to believe. Hunters dislodging ideological militants armed to the teeth? It sounded incredible. How or what could cutlasses and spears do in a battle with a well-armed and slimy enemy. How could an ill trained huntsmen track down and flush out these hobos with big guns masquerading as reformers of a decadent order whilst the military stood by askance?

I thought it was another spin. My scepticism was further heightened by Tunde Asaju’s timely caution about trusting such stories. Hunters dislodging men with sophisticated guns belong to the realm of make belief. Truly, this unending nightmare of Boko Haram is the stuff of movies. At most, the plot and narrative belong to the notorious tension spots far away from here.

Disbanding the Military may seem radical. But the situation is that desperate. They say a desperate situation requires a desperate solution. We are at that point. The Nigerian military is helpless. It can’t protect the people. This is not the fault of the rank and file. Those courageous men and women sent to fight a dangerously armed enemy with, literally, bare hands, deserve our utmost respect. They are the real heroes who dare the odds while their commander cosy up in air-conditioned office and sit tight without shame. Both equipment and clueless Chiefs and even a more clueless political authority limit the military. An authority drunk on power hemlock and shockingly unaware of the clear and present danger.

This is the time the Commander-in-chief takes command. He should fire all these pot-bellied generals that can’t come up with a war plan to end this pogrom especially in the northeast. This is doable. As it were, the masses now feel more protected by the hunters than with the military. So let’s disband. Governor Bala Ngilari of Adamawa has shown the way forward by engaging ten thousand of such hunters. That is a whole battalion with two thousand extra.

 

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